2022 Winners

Arts and Humanities

Tara Aisha Willis

Photo credit: Ian Douglas

Tara Aisha Willis, Tisch School of the Arts

Tara received her Ph.D. in Performance Studies in January 2022. Her dissertation, "Dancing Blackness: Kinetic Theorizations of Race in Contemporary Improvised Choreographies," directly addresses the complexities of what it means to be Black in the contemporary moment through the lens of making dances and dancing while Black. Her research works against racial inequality in dance scholarship, shifting away from linear, white-centered dance historical narratives to emphasize complex entanglements of lineage and influence, interpersonal relationships, and individual and collective agency. The dissertation expands the presence of several underrecognized but pivotal Black, avant-garde dance artists in the archival record of the present and explores how dance and race are mutually, albeit differently, intricate, malleable, and indescribable, centering two contemporary, improvisation-based performances.

Tara is currently Curator in Performance & Public Practice at the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago and a lecturer in dance at the University of Chicago.

Public Health & Allied Health

Lauren Ghazal

Lauren Ghazal, Rory Meyers College of Nursing

Lauren received her Ph.D. in Nursing Research and Theory Development in May 2021. Her dissertation, "Exploring Multilevel Factors Influencing Quality of Life in Young Adult Cancer Survivors: A Mixed Methods Study" explores the relationship of work-related goals and quality of life in young adult hematologic cancer survivors. Specifically, study aims are to 1) describe the relationships between patient-reported individual characteristics (distress, anxiety and depressive symptoms, cognitive function, fatigue, and financial health), work-related characteristics in the microsystem (job control, workplace support, psychological job demands, physical job demands, and job security), and quality of life; 2) explore symptom experiences, work-related goals, work ability, self-identity, and perceived psychosocial needs; and 3) examine the relationship of individual and work-related characteristics to generate profiles of the work-related goals and quality of life relationship.

Lauren is currently a T32 postdoctoral research fellow in Cancer Care Delivery in the School of Nursing at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, Michigan.

Science & Technology

Johannes Morstein

Johannes Morstein, Graduate School of Arts and Science

Johannes received his Ph.D. in Chemistry in May 2021. His dissertation, “Optical Control of Lipid Signaling,” describes the development and application of molecular photoswitches to control biological functions with light. Light affords high spatial and temporal resolution and can thus be used to precisely manipulate biological networks. The biology of lipids is particularly complex, with over 40,000 different lipid molecules known to date, many of which have important functions and are implicated in disease. Newly developed tools enable the optical control of various lipid-mediated processes and allow scientists to study their function in cells and model organisms. In addition to gaining new biological insights, these results also show much promise for the development of new forms of targeted photodynamic therapy.

Johannes is currently a National Cancer Institute K00 postdoctoral fellow in the Department of Cellular and Molecular Pharmacology at the University of California in San Francisco.

Sudarshan Pinglay

Sudarshan Pinglay, Vilcek Institute of Graduate Biomedical Sciences

Sudarshan received his Ph.D. in Cell Biology in January 2022. His dissertation, “Synthetic Regulatory Reconstitution: A Novel Framework for the Study of Gene Regulation” lays out a "constructionist" strategy for understanding how genes are turned on and off in our bodies during development and in disease. Despite the identification of over a million regulatory elements in the human genome, an understanding of how they work together has remained elusive. Inspired by Richard Feynman’s famous aphorism, “What I cannot create, I do not understand,” Sudarshan developed tools to build gene regulatory mechanisms from the ground up in mammalian genomes. Failure to recapitulate the expected gene expression pattern using the elements that are implicated in its control reveals gaps in understanding; therefore, repeatedly applying this approach to many different contexts will help elucidate the grammar of the genome, thereby deciphering the genetic causes of disease and potentially to cures through gene therapy.

Sudarshan is currently a postdoctoral fellow within the Institute for Systems Genetics at NYU Langone.

Social Sciences

Lucia Motolinia Carballo

Lucia Motolinia Carballo, Graduate School of Arts and Science

Lucia received her Ph.D. in Political Science in January 2022. Her dissertation, “Trading Pork for Unity: How Parties Respond to Electoral Reforms in Party-Centered Systems,” provides a theory that re-examines the conventional wisdom about candidate-centered systems to explain why, under certain conditions, electoral rules that incentivize legislators to cultivate a personal vote can reinforce the characteristics of party-oriented systems. In particular, she applies methods of causal inference and text analysis to study the effects of Mexico’s 2014 Electoral Reform, which lifted an 80-year-old ban on consecutive reelection, on the legislative behavior of local legislators in Mexico. Her findings help us better understand the strategic behavior of parties and politicians in the wake of the many electoral reforms that have been recently implemented across the world.

Lucia is currently Assistant Professor of Political Science at Washington University in St. Louis.


Roni Barak Ventura

Roni Barak Ventura, Tandon School of Engineering


Roni received her Ph.D. in Mechanical & Aerospace Engineering in September 2021. Her dissertation, “Exploring Design Principles Toward Enhanced Engagement in Technology-Mediated Telerehabilitation,” uses an interdisciplinary approach that incorporates concepts from medicine, biomechanics, mechatronics, and human psychology to explore different aspects of technology-mediated telerehabilitation design, and lay the foundation for citizen science-based telerehabilitation that capitalizes on individual intellect, interest, and social value. She evaluates and develops four design aspects of telerehabilitation: incorporating social interactions into citizen science and studying their effects on engagement and motivation; designing 3D-printed retrofit attachments to personalize interface interaction and target specific joint movements; developing a citizen science platform dedicated for training of bimanual movements; and creating a machine learning algorithm to identify movements patients perform in order to provide automated motion analysis and smart feedback.

Roni is currently an engineering analyst in the Division of Civil, Mechanical, and Manufacturing Innovation at the National Science Foundation.

Erin Glennon

Erin Glennon, Vilcek Institute of Graduate Biomedical Sciences

Erin Glennon received her Ph.D. in Neuroscience and Physiology in September 2021. Her dissertation, "Locus Coeruleus Activity Improves Cochlear Implant Performance,” investigates how neuromodulation enhances plasticity within the central auditory system during cochlear implant use. To address this question, this work combined operant conditioning in freely moving animals with electrophysiological, optogenetic, and imaging methods to monitor and manipulate neural activity during auditory behavior in normal hearing rodents and rats with cochlear implants. These studies provided essential data on basic mechanisms of neuromodulation and plasticity in the auditory cortex, required for improvement of prosthetic design and therapeutic strategies for treatment of deafness and language disorders.

Erin is currently finishing medical school as part of the Medical Scientist Training Program at New York University Grossman School of Medicine in New York, New York.


Harris Kornstein

Harris Kornstein, Steinhardt School of Culture, Education, and Human Development

Harris Kornstein received their Ph.D. in Media, Culture, and Communication in September 2021. Their dissertation, "Queer Enchantment: Contours, Cruising, Crystal Visions, and Other Queer Tactics for (Not) Being Seen," examines intersections of queerness and surveillance capitalism, proposing “queer enchantment” as a set of for avoiding, mitigating, and directly challenging observation. Drawing on digital media theory and queer studies, they document creative queer/trans cultural practices like drag performance, queer-run transportation networks, and mystical spiritual practices like tarot and astrology that counter both social and digital forms of control. Contrary to traditional discourses of privacy or transparency, queer enchantment techniques operate less by withholding data or opting out, and rather by taking advantage of the paradoxical hyper- and in-visibility that many queer and trans people playfully modulate through affect, play, and allure—ultimately overwhelming both the senses and the sensors.

Harris Kornstein is currently Assistant Professor of Public & Applied Humanities at the University of Arizona.


Danielle Beaujon

Danielle Beaujon, Graduate School of Arts and Science

Danielle Beaujon received her Ph.D. with distinction in History and French Studies in September 2021. Her research examines the intimate and oppositional relationship of police officers and North Africans in a connected Franco-Mediterranean world. Her dissertation, “Controlling the Casbah: Policing North Africans in Marseille and Algiers, 1918-1954,” interrogates the quotidian interactions between the police and North Africans in these two Mediterranean port cities. The project explores how the racialized policing of North Africans in Marseille and Algiers built not just on visual codes of race, but on the way that police practice mapped ideas of race onto the space of the city.

Danielle is currently a bridge-to-faculty postdoctoral research associate in the Department of Criminology, Law and Justice at University of Illinois at Chicago.